(Corrects sixth paragraph to show the attacks were similar to,
not necessarily part of, a wave of attacks in Europe last month)
TAIPEI Feb 6 Taiwan is investigating an
unprecedented case of threats made to five brokerages by an
alleged cyber-group seeking payment to avert an attack that
could crash their websites, an investigator and the securities
regulator said on Monday.
Rick Wang, an official with Taiwan's Financial Supervisory
Commission (FSC), said each brokerage had received an email
setting a deadline for the transfer of funds to avoid a
distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.
Such attacks, among the most common kind on the internet,
overload a website until it is forced to inhibit access or go
They have become common tools for cyber criminals trying to
cripple businesses and organizations with significant online
"We have never seen this on such a scale - five companies
hit at one time with the same threat," said Wang, adding that
the regulator usually sees single instances of cyber-crime.
FireEye, a cybersecurity consultancy, said the attacks were
similar to a wave of threatened denial of service attacks by a
previously unidentified group that first appeared in Europe last
The Taiwan attacks do not pose a threat to the island's
broader trading and financial system, Wang said, but he added
that the regulator had asked all securities firms to step up
One threat recipient, Masterlink Securities Corp,
said its website had come under attack, but it had recovered and
operations were normal.
"The emails were sent under the name of the 'Armada
Collective'," said Chiu Shao-chou, an official of the internet
cybercrime division of Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau,
the government's top investigation body.
The Armada Collective, a hacking extortion group, has been
linked to financial blackmail heists elsewhere. But Chiu said
the group has been put under watch and Taiwan investigators were
still looking into the original source of the emails.
The email demanded payment in web-based digital currency
bitcoin equivalent to about T$300,000 ($9,731.41), Taiwan media
None of the securities companies made any payments, Chiu
Another brokerage firm, Capital Securities Corp,
was hit on Monday by a DDoS attack lasting 20 minutes before its
system recovered, the regulator said, but it did not link the
latest case to the threatening emails.
($1=30.8280 Taiwan dollars)
(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Additional reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff
in Singapore; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)